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Technology is wonderful, no doubt about it. Where would we be without life enhancing inventions such as car alarms, leaf blowers, boom boxes, pop-up ads and automated telephone menus that offer nine stupefying options in six languages. Our ancestors would be amazed!

But now, the would-be Edisons of the world have truly outdone themselves. Using sinister Big Brother robotics, they have produced a scary product that will deny you the freedom of choice at its most elementary level.

Ladies and gentlemen, we present the Luce X2, a vending machine that uses facial recognition technology to deny you access to potato chips or chocolate bars or cigarettes or anything else it may feel is bad for you, based on your medical records or dietary habits.

No matter how many dollar bills you feed into it, you won’t get that bag of Fritos or the Hershey Bar you crave.  No matter how hard you hammer it with your fist, it won’t dislodge that can of Mountain Dew.

It’s man versus machine and the machine knows who you are. If you don’t behave, it might tell other machines. And you wouldn’t want that, would you?

I’m all for a healthy lifestyle. But if there’s anything worse than jamming a chili cheeseburger down your throat, it’s having to swallow misguided intentions.

The machines, produced in Europe, are able to identify and greet a user, remember a person’s preferences, and even refuse to vend a certain product based on a shopper’s age, medical record, dietary requirements or purchase history.

A ham and cheese sandwich? Sorry, Charlie, you get a kale on wheat, hold the mayo, with a side of broccoli florets. 

One potential customer suggested that the machines could come equipped with prerecorded messages to motivate the user, like: “Don’t you think you have had enough” or “Have you seen yourself in the mirror?”

Of course, if I really want that ham and cheese on a roll I can ask my buddy, a former Army Airborne Ranger who does triathlons on his days off, to order it for me. Surely he could pass mechanized muster.

Or, given that facial recognition is the key, I can just flash a picture of Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas who holds more than 20 world eating records, including chili cheese fries (8 pounds, 2 ounces in 10 minutes), crab cakes (46 in 10 minutes), hard boiled eggs (65 in 6 minutes, 40 seconds), and oysters (46 dozen in 10 minutes).
Bon appetite.

We have become accustomed to the wacky when it comes to vending machines. In China, they dispense live crabs. Then again, right here in Los Angeles, you can feed your caviar habit from a machine. The cost: an ounce for a cool $500. I assume it doesn’t accept quarters.

Asia in fact has raised vending to an art form. There, in addition to the aforementioned crabs, you’ll find lettuce, bananas, mashed potatoes, beer and sake, eggs, rice and something called canned bread, at the touch of a button.

The ultimate in vending comes from Miami Beach where it’s possible for people to spend as much as $1 million on a single purchase. Items range from a yacht trip to a penthouse condo or a Bentley to a BMW motorcycle. Hit the button and you get a voucher for your purchase.

Fortunately, there is a civilized anecdote to this creeping nannyism represented by the X2.

Enter the Somabar, which lets anyone create craft cocktails at home in a matter of seconds, according to a magazine article. This kitchen appliance takes direction from your smartphone through an app that has hundreds of cocktail recipes on file. Once a drink is selected, the Somabar extracts the necessary ingredients from six pre-filled ‘pods’ located on either side of the device, pumps the ingredients into a tube for mixing, and infuses bitters just before emptying the concoction into your glass. 

“It’s the way of the future,” bartender Aaron Polsky said. “But its application is actually greater in bars, in large scale deployment. I would normally never order a Manhattan at a rock concert, but if they had one of these machines, I might.”

The projected price?  $699.  What the hell, I’ll have a Martini, hold the rejection.

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About The Author:

Robert Rector

Robert Rector

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at: robert-rector.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter at: @robertrector1.

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